As winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, the telltale sounds of coughs and sneezes echo through facilities, and employee absenteeism becomes more prevalent. It’s a sure sign that the cold and flu season has arrived.
After two relatively mild flu seasons due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified the 2022–23 influenza season as moderately severe. They estimated over 31 million symptomatic illnesses, 14 million medical visits, 360,000 hospitalizations, and 21,000 deaths related to influenza infections. Hospitalization rates were similar to those in pre-COVID seasons, except for the 2017–18 season. The number of influenza-related deaths (9,697) was significantly higher than the pre-pandemic average (8,530). This emphasizes the importance of preparing for the upcoming 2023–24 flu season.
It’s crucial to adhere to your facility’s cleaning practices and protocols to minimize the spread of germs and encourage employees and occupants to get their flu vaccinations. In this blog, we’ve put together tips to help you prepare for the current flu season and manage other common winter illnesses.
Facilities Overrun with Germs
In addition to the flu, common winter illnesses include rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and strep throat, with the added complication of COVID-19 in recent years. Winter illnesses tend to surge because cold temperatures drive people indoors for gatherings, reducing airflow and trapping germs inside. As indoor activities increase, it creates an ideal environment for bacteria and viruses to spread on surfaces, increasing the chances of illness transmission.
Viruses and bacteria spread easily in enclosed spaces through respiratory droplets, contaminated surfaces, and the air. When people cough, sneeze, or talk, germs are dispersed and often end up on nearby surfaces. Spending more time inside and touching high-contact items like doorknobs, light switches, chairs, and tables increases the likelihood of coming into contact with germs.
Commercial Cleaning Practices to the Rescue
To prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses through contaminated surfaces, facilities should follow a three-step approach:
- Implement effective commercial cleaning and disinfecting protocols with clear guidelines on who cleans and disinfects which areas, at what times, and using what products.
- Focus on high-touch surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks, as well as high-traffic areas like classrooms, restrooms, break rooms, and frequently-used conference rooms.
- Select the right disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to kill relevant pathogens, and opt for ready-to-use products to enhance efficiency.
In busy public spaces, prioritize frequent cleaning over disinfection. Frequent, quick cleanings can help remove germs on surfaces that quickly become re-contaminated. Ensure an adequate stock of cleaning products appropriate for the surfaces and a well-trained staff to perform proper cleaning.
Clearing the Air
Preventing the airborne spread of germs is equally important. Encourage respiratory etiquette, frequent handwashing, and the use of hand sanitizer. Keep soap and paper towel dispensers filled. Don’t neglect your facility’s HVAC systems, which should be well-maintained and ensure proper air exchange. The CDC recommends at least five air changes per hour, achieved through various ventilation methods.
Ideally, facilities should maintain a consistent commercial cleaning and disinfection routine throughout the year. Ramping up cleaning and disinfection efforts during flu season or outbreaks may be unnecessary if you have an effective disinfection plan in place. Monitor local health department updates, CDC’s FluView, and The National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) for information on circulating pathogens, and ensure you have the necessary cleaning products on hand. Encourage sick individuals to stay home, promoting a healthy work environment.
In the battle against winter illnesses and year-round germs, it’s crucial to partner with a professional cleaning solution that truly understands your facility’s needs. At iNX Commercial Cleaning Solutions, we’re dedicated to providing top-notch cleaning and disinfection services to keep your facility safe and healthy throughout the year. To learn more about how we can tailor our services to fit your unique requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Give us a call or fill out the form below to schedule a consultation and take the first step in securing a cleaner, healthier future for your facility and its occupants. Remember, germs don’t take vacations – let’s keep them at bay, together.